Match ends, Kilmarnock 1, Hamilton Academical 0.
Alexei Eremenko thundered home a last-gasp free-kick to snatch a home win for Kilmarnock over high-flying Hamilton.
A stalemate had looked inevitable as Killie keeper Craig Samson had kept out Accies' long-range shots at goal and the home side rarely threatened.
Accies' Darian MacKinnon headed over Samson's crossbar in a late attack.
But when Jamie Hamill was brought down by Michael Devlin deep in injury time, substitute Eremenko smacked in the set-piece from 20 yards to win the game.
The victory ended a poor run for Allan Johnston's men. They had lost seven and drawn one in all competitions since an away league win over St Johnstone in mid-October.
With Hamilton's play dictated by player-manager Alex Neil, they soon had their passing game on show on the artificial surface at Rugby Park.
They were soon creating chances, with Mickael Antoine-Curier failing to score as a result of a wayward header.
Neil can often be found issuing instructions and reprimands when on the pitch - but after being robbed of possession, he was grateful to goalkeeper Michael McGovern for blocking Rory McKenzie's hurried shot from the edge of the box.
Both line-ups had a healthy representation of graduates from their youth ranks on display. One of those in red and white, Ali Crawford, was heavily involved in much of Accies' creative play and he tested Killie keeper Samson twice in the first quarter of the match.
Killie were slow to get going and had to survive a Tony Andreu long-range shot and two scares provided by Dougie Imrie - who a penalty claim rejected after he was challenged by Chris Chantler and then shot over the bar by Imrie.
But the home side began to threaten, and McKenzie's 34th-minute cut-back from the right went just behind Robbie Muirhead, who was denied the chance to sweep the ball home with the goal gaping.
And Hamill gave the home fans in the 3,900 crowd hope when he powered a header at goal, but McGovern was well placed.
The teams were evenly matched after the break and the chances became scarcer.
McGovern smothered a Muirhead drive and then - as the action swept to the other end - Crawford had a shot deflected for a corner, from which Josh Magennis leapt to nod an Accies headed effort off the goal-line.
Then with 10 minutes left, a glorious opportunity fell to Hamilton midfielder MacKinnon, who headed an in-swinging Crawford corner over the bar from six yards.
As the match petered out towards what looked like being a repeat of September's 0-0 draw at New Douglas Park, Johnston and Neil made three changes apiece.
In Eremenko's 13 minutes of play, he pinged a lovely cross deep in to the box for Josh Magennis, who brought the ball down on his toe but could not finish.
And the Finn scored with almost the last kick of the ball to deny Accies second spot in the Premiership.
- 23ChantlerSubstituted forO'Haraat 85'minutes
- 33MuirheadSubstituted forJohnstonat 70'minutes
- 9MillerSubstituted forEremenkoat 77'minutesBooked at 90mins
- 4DevlinBooked at 90mins
- 10NeilSubstituted forRoutledgeat 70'minutes
- 22AndreuSubstituted forLongridgeat 79'minutes
- 99Antoine-CurierSubstituted forScotlandat 73'minutes
- Craig Thomson
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Kilmarnock 1, Hamilton Academical 0.
Alexei Eremenko (Kilmarnock) is shown the yellow card.
Goal! Kilmarnock 1, Hamilton Academical 0. Alexei Eremenko (Kilmarnock) from a free kick with a left footed shot to the top right corner.
Michael Devlin (Hamilton Academical) is shown the yellow card.
Jamie Hamill (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Michael Devlin (Hamilton Academical).
Foul by Lee Ashcroft (Kilmarnock).
Jason Scotland (Hamilton Academical) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt saved. Lee Ashcroft (Kilmarnock) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.
Josh Magennis (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Martin Canning (Hamilton Academical).
Mark Connolly (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Dougie Imrie (Hamilton Academical).
Jamie Hamill (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Darian MacKinnon (Hamilton Academical).
Substitution, Kilmarnock. Mark O'Hara replaces Chris Chantler.
Foul by Chris Johnston (Kilmarnock).
Dougie Imrie (Hamilton Academical) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Chris Johnston (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick in the attacking half.